Altabel Group's Blog

Microsoft to Apple: iWork stinks, iPads are toys, and you’re playing catch-up

Posted on: October 28, 2013

After Apple slammed Microsoft for gouging customers and designing tablets that nobody wants, Microsoft has fired back, saying that you can’t get real work done with iPads or its anemic iWorks productivity suite, and that iPads are little more than toys. Who’s right in the increasingly nasty war of words?

At Apple’s iPad launch, CEO Tim Cook and others zinged Microsoft for charging $99 a year for Office, charging $199 for people to upgrade to Windows 8, and for having a confused tablet strategy. CEO Tim Cook said about Microsoft:

“They’re confused. They chased after netbooks. Now they’re trying to make PCs into tablets and tablets into PCs. Who knows what they’ll do next? I can’t answer that question, but I can tell you that we’re focused.”

Microsoft is striking back, and striking back hard, esssentially claiming that you can’t get serious work done on an iPad, and that the only reason Apple is now giving away its iWorks suite is that no one wants to buy it. On the Official Microsoft Blog, Frank Shaw, Corporate Vice President of Communications at Microsoft noted the criticisms that Apple had aimed at Microsoft, and shot back:

“Seems like the RDF (Reality Distortion Field) typically generated by an Apple event has extended beyond Cupertino.”

And then he took off the kid gloves, criticizing Apple’s new iPads as overpriced, iWork as a pointless piece of software, and saying they don’t stack up against Surface tablets when it comes to productivity. He wrote:

“Surface and Surface 2 both include Office, the world’s most popular, most powerful productivity software for free and are priced below both the iPad 2 and iPad Air respectively. Making Apple’s decision to build the price of their less popular and less powerful iWork into their tablets not a very big (or very good) deal.”

He said iPads were not suitable for getting real work done, and that the reason Apple is giving away iWork for free is that no one wants them, as shown by their $10 price for iOS, or $20 for Mac OS X. He wrote:

“…it’s not surprising that we see other folks now talking about how much ‘work’ you can get done on their devices. Adding watered down productivity apps. Bolting on aftermarket input devices. All in an effort to convince people that their entertainment devices are really work machines.

“In that spirit, Apple announced yesterday that they were dropping their fees on their ‘iWork’ suite of apps. Now, since iWork has never gotten much traction, and was already priced like an afterthought, it’s hardly that surprising or significant a move. And it doesn’t change the fact that it’s much harder to get work done on a device that lacks precision input and a desktop for true side-by-side multitasking.”

And he concluded that when it comes to getting real work done, Apple is far behind Microsoft:

“So, when I see Apple drop the price of their struggling, lightweight productivity apps, I don’t see a shot across our bow, I see an attempt to play catch up.”

Who’s right here? When it comes to the productivity argument, Microsoft is. There’s absolutely no doubt that a Surface Pro 2 tablet equipped with a Touch Type 2 keyboard and a free version of Office is a far more effective tool for getting serious work done than an iPad with iWork. In essence, the Surface Pro with the Touch Type 2 keyboard is an ultrabook. An iPad with iWork is…well, an iPad with iWork. In other words, fine for light work. Not well-suited for serious work.

But when it comes to the tablet market and to sales, Apple is right. For now, tablet buyers don’t care about doing heavy-duty work on them. Checking email, browsing the Web, running apps, and light memo writing, are all well-suited for tablets. And that’s all many people need to do for their work.

So in the tablet battle, Microsoft’s Surface may be on top for productivity. But when it comes to the bottom line and sales, Apple is still cleaning up.

Kristina Kozlova

Marketing Manager



Altabel Group

Professional Software Development


5 Responses to "Microsoft to Apple: iWork stinks, iPads are toys, and you’re playing catch-up"

Agree. But remembering that Apple is talking everywhere that the Tablets will replace Desktop and Laptops in the mid term… So productivity could matter soon.

Apparently a lot of people don’t care about productivity…

Productivity is relative.

Apple has recognized tablets are about consuming media, not typing documents. It’s suitable for emails and texting.

Microsoft is delusional if they think anyone is going to type out long documents, do programming or other serious, labor intensive work.

A tablet is like a window to virtual worlds which is great for viewing and basic interaction. This happens to be what most people do all the time (working or not). It is not a door to other worlds which requires a person to get off his his lazy ass; that’s what a desktop/laptop is for. Frankly, a net book is a tricycle for lazy people who want to feel like they are getting somewhere and are only for the simplest of work such as typing and data entry.

@don : So you think desktop/laptop will still be a huge part of the market and used extensively?! If yes, Surface 2 pro is not so bad for doing the same things I am doing right now with my Vaio 4 GB RAM / 256 GB HD / intel centrino laptop. Including programming. Frankly having a laptop / Tablet is not so dumb to ally media consuming and mobility to a certain productivity.Maybe we can see the Surface as a smart replacement of laptop/desktop with the easy handling of a tablet. That’s my two cents.

I wonder if Apple may’ve wished to leave the “Be practical” part to the Apple developer community. It is possible to “Get work done” with an iPad, but it seems to entail a selection of specific apps. For instance, some favorites[1]. Frankly, I think the Apple mobile platform is limited, practically, by the fact that XCode is available only on OS X, and a Hackintosh is “no bueno” per OS X TOS. Apple is not embracing other platforms., I think, though perhaps neither is Microsoft. They’ve abandoned the server market. Linux can “take up the slack,” at that, I know, but I don’t see the Apple platform evolving. It’s also a non-cheap platform to “Buy into.” I think, they must be using a “Prestige pricing” model, frankly.

Sure, Kerberos is supported in iOS 7, so I’ve heard. There may be “User data security points,” in that. Though it’s not trendy, but CORBA may be available in Objective C and then on iOS mobile also. (A “new,” non-HTTP-coupled platform could emerge on Apple Mobile, but the architectures work for such a matter, “It takes time.” I’ve been focusing about the web ontology language, but that would present a tangential arc of a kind, certainly)

I’ve been no fan of Microsoft products, no more after reading of their “dirty dealing” with regards to CP/M and Digital Research’s own IP, back in the days when Microsoft was Traf-0-Data[2]. Simply, I hope Apple might not be stuck in an ivory tower kind of view of the market, the industry, and the state of the art. Though it may sound unconventional, but I wonder if they’ve considered hiring Steve Wozniak into a leadership role, in the Apple company, to bring that “Former hacker” flair back to the Apple corporate community, perhaps?

I think iOS can be a practical platform. I just don’t like the vendor lock-in feature with regards to XCode as a feature of the iTunes toolchain, and then the prestigious pricing of the platform, contrasted to Droid and such. (I’ve heard Apple catch some “Trendy flack” inasmuch, albeit sadly I think, recently. Not the entire Linux user/developer community shares in such sentiments)

On a far tangent: As far as designing a new mobile platform, one deriving from MIT’s old Lisp Machine designs, I haven’t been able to “float” that concept toward Apple, as yet, LOL, but it may be technically viable. There’s Verilog available for their “old”, now “open” licensed schematics, for instance. (There once was another platform in the desktop computing market, namely the LispM. Perhaps it was driven out of the market simply on account of market trends, in that epoch. It may still present a visible computing platform, however, albeit such that could be refactored onto an ARM architecture, certainly after some analysis of the old MIT CADR schematics)

I’m sure Apple’s and Microsoft’s leadership may be able to resolve their disagreements with a nice game of squash or somesuch.

[1] A sort of “Working suite” on iOS Mobile – frankly, I was an Engineer in the Army, when I began to discover this configuration. (Some knowledge models may simly not be “open”, inasmuch, whatever anyone may wish to infer)
* GoodReader for reading and annotating PDFs (documentation, academic articles, etc)
* Cubetto Mobile with its UML and BPMN modules, for highly involved “Cafe napkin sketches” with regards to study and development of “object oriented” APIs (Though frankly it’s not a full modeling suite, cf. Modleio or IBM’s Rational suite, but IMO it makes a really nice UML modeling tool, on mobile)
* QuickOffice for at least rudimentary development of commercial office documents (platform limitation, perhaps)
* iThoughts for outlines (perhaps, cf. agile Maker culture)
* Textastic for “lines of code”
* SSH Term for mobile access to a Java host
* UXWrite for an HTML5 baseline, formats-wise
* OmniFocus for task management
* OmniGraffle for non-UML diagrams
* Dropbox, or alternately a privately hosted WebDAV service, for “synch” across platforms, with all the p’s crossed and q’s dotted, so to speak.
* SuperFiles for misc. file related “stuff” e.g “unzip FOSS product source code archive”
* iCab browser, which can download on iOS (e.g FOSS product source code access)
* Diigo browser, for annotating documentation
* SecureSafe. because user data is user data.
* Stitcher for “news”
* Regular fare such as G+, Pandora, Rhapsody
* Trimble apps, for “weekends outdoors” with Trimble MyTopo’s maps of trails and outdoors geology
* Strava Cycling if the bicycle gets any more miles
* CharityMiles (goodwill layer on walking, running, or bicycling)
* Ruby refs – cf. Red Hat OpenShift – “assorted”


iOS is a diverse platform, I think. Though I understand that maybe it’s been mostly applied for mobile gaming – as there is a market in computer gaming, certainly – well, there is something of a practical set of apps available on iOS, regardless.

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